Banker Najadi Buried as Malaysia Police Hunt Contract Killer

Hussain Ahmad Najadi, a Bahraini banker who built financial links between the Middle East and Malaysia, was buried in Kuala Lumpur last night after being shot by suspected contract killers following a business meeting.

Chong Mei Kuen, Najadi’s 49-year-old widow, who was also wounded in the shooting, attended the Muslim ceremony along with about 30 other family members, Malaysian national news service Bernama reported.

“He never had enemies,” Pascal Najadi, his 45-year-old son and business partner, said in a phone interview from Moscow today. “He believed in the kindness of people. I was not made aware of any conflict that was business or personal that could have escalated.”

Najadi, 75, founded Arab-Malaysian Development Bank Bhd. in 1975, leaving after seven years, while the institution went on to become AMMB Holdings Bhd., now Malaysia’s fifth-largest lender by market value. The bank was the first to pump petrodollars from the Middle East into East Asia, according to Najadi’s autobiography “The Sea and the Hills.”

He sold his stake in the bank in 1982 to Azman Hashim, its current chairman, who later renamed it AMMB. Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., now the largest shareholder, said in an e-mailed statement it was “saddened” by the death and expressed its condolences. Najadi’s death won’t affect ANZ’s relationship with AMMB, Australia’s third-largest bank by market value said.

‘Spectacled Guy’

Police said yesterday they’re searching for three men caught on a surveillance video outside the temple where Najadi met to discuss a property deal.

The suspected gunman is nicknamed Sei Ngan Chai, Cantonese for “the spectacled guy,” Kuala Lumpur Criminal Investigations Department Chief Fu Chin Wah told reporters today, releasing a photo of one of the suspects. A businessman whom Najadi met before the murder will be questioned today, Fu said.

Pascal, Najadi’s only child and vice chairman of his corporate advisory company AIAK Group, said he wasn’t aware of any property disputes involving his firm.

Security advisers recommend that Pascal, son of Najadi’s first wife, stay out of Malaysia until police arrest those responsible for the murder, he said.

“I have decided to continue the business,” he said. “I have the painful duty to return to the grave when I can.”

Mercedes Factory

Najadi was the son of a fruit and vegetable seller, according to his autobiography. He left school at 15, beginning his path out of poverty as an apprentice with Bahrain Petroleum Co., before moving to study and work in the West, starting out with a stint in a Mercedes factory in then West Germany, the book says.

He became a financial adviser to Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jabir Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s then finance and oil minister and future emir, in the 1960s, according to the book. Najadi used holding company AIAK to form Arab Malaysian Development Bank in Kuala Lumpur and later the Arab Asian Bank in Bahrain.

After a loan deal went sour, Najadi was detained in Bahrain in 1985 and held in prison for more than seven years, according to the book. He was acquitted on appeal and headed to Switzerland, where he rebuilt AIAK with his son in 2000, Pascal said, providing copies of court documents.

They returned to base themselves in Kuala Lumpur in 2002, where they advised on the creation of three merchant banks, the son said.

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